A good definition of copywriting is any form of writing designed to persuade you to do something (usually involving parting with money). The most common advice is to keep it brief, remember your target audience and have a clear 'ask'.
It turns out bank robbers are natural born copywriters. Banknotes365 is a brilliant collection of notes pushed threateningly across counters in banks around the world – all juxtaposed with photos of their authors.
It would make a great case study in a copywriting workshop. Here are a few examples:
Good, effective, precise – although possibly focusing too much on the negative.
A subtler approach – the threat is implied rather than stated, and the writer is keen to get his audience on side (please... thanks...)
Possibly the most creative of the bunch. The unconventional construction of the phrase "A dye pack will bring me back for your ass" lodges it in the mind successfully. "Do exactly what this says" would make a good all-purpose opening for almost any press advertisement.
This needs a good editor. Note the strange use of quotes around the word 'explode', which turns a literal threat into a more figurative one.
What's most striking and touching about the notes is their politeness, even in the briefest examples:
That last 'Thanks' almost makes you well up.
The blog is by Ken Habarta who has just brought out this book collecting all the notes together.
Buy a copy. Do it now.
Thanks to One Floor Up who mentioned this on Twitter.
UPDATE: This article is now on Creative Review, complete with comments.